DUBLIN (RNS/ENInews) The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has denied engaging in a cover-up of a priest who was allegedly involved in a 1972 bombing that killed nine people in Northern Ireland.
A report released Tuesday (Aug. 24) by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman into a 1972 car bomb said talks between representatives of the government, the police and the church resulted in the transfer of the Rev. James Chesney, a suspect in the bombing, to a parish in Ireland.
In a statement, the current head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, and Bishop Seamus Hegarty of Derry accepted the ombudsman’s findings, calling the bombing an appalling crime.
They added, however, The Catholic Church did not engage in a cover-up of this matter.
The bombing resulted in the deaths of nine people ”Catholics and Protestants ”including three children. Police thought Chesney played a central role as a suspected member of the paramilitary Provisional Irish Republican Army, then waging a violent struggle for a united Ireland.
The ombudsman’s report found that the Northern Ireland police force sought the assistance of British officials to render harmless a dangerous priest.
Cardinal William Conway, then the leader of Ireland’s Catholics, proposed at a meeting with William Whitelaw, the British government minister responsible for Northern Ireland, to transfer Chesney from British-controlled Northern Ireland to a parish in the Republic of Ireland.
Chesney was transferred to Donegal in 1973, where he died of cancer at age 46 in 1980.
The ombudsman accepted that 1972 was one of the worst years of the troubles in Northern Ireland, and that the arrest of a Catholic priest might well have aggravated the security situation.
In their statement, Brady and Hegarty said the transfer did not prevent the possibility of the future arrest and questioning of Chesney, but said even if he was involved, it is now too late to bring him to justice.
Father Chesney is dead and, as a suspect in the … bombing, he is beyond the justice of earthly courts, they said.